Tornadoes: Is your entity prepared?

Between Feb. 28 and March 3 two storms delivered numerous tornadoes throughout the United States, including an EF1 tornado with 86 – 110 mph winds which struck the Ewing area of Lee County in Southwest Virginia.  The storms pushed through at least seven states destroying towns and communities through tornadoes with winds as high as 180 mph.

Peak tornado season in Virginia is March through May.  Last year 51 tornadoes touched down in Virginia. Is your entity prepared ?

Virginia will be holding a statewide tornado drill on Tuesday, March 20, and VML Insurance Programs (VMLIP) encourages members to participate.  The statewide drill will take place at 9:45 a.m. with the National Weather Service sending a test warning triggering a tone alert and a broadcast message on weather radios.  Television and radio broadcasters will also participate in the drill.

Do you know what to do during the drill?  The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has provided information on how to conduct a tornado drill, as well as signs of tornadoes and terminology you need to know to prepare for a tornado.

A quick summary:

  • Designate someone to coordinate your drill.
  • Inform employees in advance that you will be having a drill, and make sure they know where to go.  The safest place is typically a windowless interior room on the lowest level of the building.
  • Announce the drill via a public address system or by having volunteers alert staff.
  • Employees should act as if a tornado warning has been issued and evacuate to your designated tornado shelter area.  They should not use elevators.
  • Employees should be informed that during a real tornado emergency they should crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and covering their heads with their hands.  You could practice this during the drill.


Many of us are familiar with evaluating the success of a fire drill, for example how long it took for the entire building to evacuate?  Similarly tornado drills also need evaluation.

The evaluation should consider if more safe areas need to be identified, if there was enough space for everyone to shelter safely, and if those areas are cluttered or need to be more accessible.  Additionally the evaluation should consider how effective the drill announcement was in getting everyone’s attention.

Business continuity: Customized plan

While participating in the statewide tornado drill will prepare you and your staff to stay safe during a tornado, is your entity prepared for the aftermath?  How will you continue operating – and serving your citizens – if your building or entire locality is destroyed by tornados?

On April 16, 2011 Page Middle School in Gloucester County, a VMLIP member, was destroyed by tornado.

VML Insurance Programs (VMLIP) has partnered with Agility Recovery Solutions (Agility Recovery) to provide access to generators, computers, servers, printers, office space, phones and Internet access for members in the event of a disaster.  However, it is critical that you know everything else your entity needs to keep your entity running after a disaster.

Each organization has unique needs and recovery objectives.  VMLIP members have access to Agility Recovery experts in preparing for recoveries that will help you develop a recovery strategy to ensure your needs are met.  By identifying the all your recovery needs in advance, you can be back online even sooner.

VMLIP has more information on getting started with Agility and developing your recovery plan online.

You can also learn more about Agility’s response to the recent Kentucky tornado by joining them for a webinar on Friday, March 9 at 11:30 a.m.  The webinar is free and you can register online here.  You can also read about Agility’s response to VMLP member the City of Poquoson’s need for business continuity services here.

If you choose to participate in the Statewide Tornado Drill, you can voluntarily register with VDEM here so they can measure how many are participating in tornado safety.

VMLIP offers more than just coverage.  We are partners in risk management.  How does your insurer stack up?  Having all lines of coverage with VMLIP ensures that your organization is receiving comprehensive coverage and a wide variety of value-added services tailored to Virginia’s local governmental entities.  Call for a quote today: (800) 963-6800.  For more information on VMLIP visit: or follow us on Facebook.

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